Since the dawn of man, we have tried to track and conquer time. While it still eludes us, top watch brands have found a way to display time – other than via wristwatches – in ultimate beauty that helps us to slow down a moment and take note. Clocks have long been a part of history, moving from towers to tables and from walls to desk. This year, several of the foremost names have unveiled objects of art that range from small desktop clocks to oversized, one-of-a-kind beauties.
Van Cleef & Arpels Automate Fee Ondine
Easily the most impressive clock unveiled this year comes from Van Cleef & Arpels, which released the Automate Fee Ondine Extraordinary Object at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in January. This stunning clock is a singular creation that deftly blends automatons, mechanical prowess and nature in an orchestrated delight of activity and elegance. For this clock, Van Cleef & Arpels worked with automaton maker François Junod, as well as with artisans in the jewelry and watch worlds. Essentially, a highly complex mechanical heart powers the animated clock, which features a sculpted fairy atop a lily pad with lily flowers that open and close – bringing the peaceful, idyllic scene to life.
The surface of the base, which has an ebony veneer, is spectacularly finished to emulate a water lily pad via engraved and enameled green with silver strips, and inset diamonds and pink sapphires as water droplets. Atop the lily pad sits a white-gold sculpted fairy, bedecked in sapphires and featuring a face of milky aquamarine. Her delicate wings are created in plique-a-jour enamel. Nearby are two water lilies crafted in silver, enamel, gold, diamonds and inset with yellow and orange sapphires in the center. Within the larger lily, which opens on the hour, is a white-gold butterfly set with diamonds, pink sapphires and wings of white Australian opal.
The base also features the time-telling portion of the masterpiece by means of a tiny ladybug made in pink gold, white gold and set with diamonds and rubies in Van Cleef & Arpels’ traditional Mystery Setting. It indicates retrograde hours along the base. A manual-wind mechanical automaton movement powers the magnificent object with animation on demand. There are five cycles of animation available when the mechanism is fully wound – and each animation lasts about 50 seconds. This unique clock offers eight days of power reserve. It is so entrancing to watch that the clock is more of a theater than a time-telling device.
Patek Philippe Hour Circle Clock
Taking a different tact with time, Patek Philippe unveiled a series of miniature desk clocks this year, each one a beautiful work of art. The Patek Philippe Hour Circle Clock is a tribute to the hour circle on dials and to the rotation of wheels inside watch and clock movements. Essentially, the design of the clock is a play on those circles, with a Bauhaus principle that form follows function. Each table clock displays the time via a dial on top, visible only from above. From the sides, the clock is a beautifully domed object of art. Each is decorated with a flinqué enamel finish – with colors ranging from cantaloupe orange to watermelon pink and brilliant blue. The domed sides are made of silver with a guilloché barleycorn pattern, and a sunburst pattern beneath the enamel offers depth and a play on light. The leaf-shaped hands and two-tier bezel accentuate the curved beauty of the case. Each clock is powered by Patek Philippe’s Caliber 17” PEND mechanical movement that is rewound by an electric motor. POA
Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos 568 by Marc Newson
In a more modern twist, Jaeger-LeCoultre unveiled a highly contemporary version of its famed Atmos clock (that runs on fluctuations in air pressure), created in cooperation with Australian designer Marc Newson. This is not the first time the brand has worked with Newson, whose designs have a contemporary yet classic appeal. The new Atmos 568 by Marc Newson clock is crafted from Baccarat crystal and is so clear and open that the perpetual calendar clock mechanism seems to float in space. It is only from the back that one sees the four points where it is held in place. The mechanical movement, Jaeger-LeCoultre Caliber 568, has been reconfigured for this clock in order to achieve the look Newson wanted. The clock offers hours, minutes, month, and perpetual moonphase indication. ($26,800)
Jacob & Co. Astronomia Table Clock
Taking the concept of its highly coveted Astronomia wristwatches – with the moon, planets and sun on the timepiece – Jacob & Co. unveils the Astronomia Table Clock. The clock measures 130mm in diameter and is crafted in stainless steel, with aventurine and mineral crystal. There is also a genuine meteorite stone to complete the astronomical concept. The bold beauty is powered by the Jacob & Co. manual-winding JCAM17 movement that is in constant revolution, and which consists of 380 individual parts. ($120,000)
A host of other brands also unveiled clocks this year, recognizing the love of art and time that lives within all of us. We will bring you a part two of this story this fall.